New Delhi: India on Thursday rejected claims by both Russia and Ukraine that Indian students are being held hostage in the besieged city of Kharkiv, and said it has requested the support of Ukrainian authorities in arranging special trains for taking them out from the city and neighbouring areas.
India’s comments came after a statement from Russian President Vladimir Putin’s office claimed that some Indian students were “actually taken hostage” by Ukrainian security forces, who use them as a “human shield” and in every possible way prevent them from leaving for Russian territory.
The Russian claim was mentioned in a readout issued by Kremlin following a telephonic conversation between President Putin and Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Wednesday evening.
Separately, the Ukrainian foreign ministry “urgently called on the governments of India, Pakistan, China and other counties whose students have become hostages of the Russian armed aggression in Kharkiv and Sumy, to demand from Moscow that it allows the opening of a humanitarian corridor to other Ukrainian cities.”
Some Indian students were stuck in the eastern Ukrainian city of Kharkiv and several other conflict zones and India has asked both Russia and Ukraine to facilitate their safe passage to the border transit points for their exit to neighbouring countries.
“We have not received any report of any hostage situation regarding any student. We have requested the support of Ukrainian authorities in arranging special trains for taking out students from Kharkiv and neighbouring areas to the western part of the country,” External Affairs Ministry Spokesperson Arindam Bagchi said.
He said the Indian embassy in Ukraine is in continuous touch with Indian nationals in Ukraine.
“We note that with the cooperation of Ukrainian authorities, many students have left Kharkiv yesterday,” Bagchi said.
Prime Minister Modi on Wednesday spoke to Putin and discussed the safe evacuation of Indian nationals from the conflict areas in Ukraine including Kharkiv.
“The leaders reviewed the situation in Ukraine, especially in the city of Kharkiv where many Indian students are stuck.They discussed the safe evacuation of Indian nationals from conflict areas,” the Indian statement of the conversation said.
The Russian readout said the Russian side is trying to organise an “urgent evacuation of a group of Indian students from Kharkov (Kharkiv) through the humanitarian corridor along the shortest route to Russia.”
“At the same time, according to the latest information, these students are actually taken hostage by Ukrainian security forces, who use them as a human shield and in every possible way prevent them from leaving for Russian territory,” it claimed.
It said the “responsibility, in this case, lies entirely with Kyiv authorities.”
The Russian readout said Putin stressed that all necessary instructions were given and that the Russian military was doing everything possible to ensure the “safe evacuation of Indian citizens from the war zone and their return to their homeland”.
It also said the leaders agreed to continue close cooperation in order to ensure the safety of the Indian citizens in Ukraine.
In a statement, the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry asked Russia to “immediately cease” its hostilities in Kharkiv and Sumy so that arrangements can be made for the evacuation of the civilian population, including foreign students to safer cities.
“There are students from India, Pakistan, China and other counties who cannot leave because of the indiscriminate shelling and barbaric missile strikes by the Russian Armed Forces on residential areas and civilian infrastructure,” it said.
It said the government of Ukraine stands ready to assist foreign students to relocate from Kharkiv and Sumy if Russia commits to a ceasefire.
“Attempting to arrange evacuations through cities that are being subjected to Russian bombing and missile strikes is extremely dangerous,” it said
Responding to media queries on Indian students, Bagchi on Thursday said India has been coordinating effectively with countries in the region including Russia, Romania, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia and Moldova for evacuation of the Indians from Ukraine.
“A large number of Indian nationals have been evacuated from Ukraine in the last few days,” he said.
“We appreciate the help extended by Ukrainian authorities to make this possible. We thank Ukraine’s western neighbours in receiving Indian nationals and for accommodating them while they waited for flights to take them back home,” he added. PTI